It’s a sad time for journalism. Last month saw the final print edition of The Independent roll off the presses after 30 years in circulation.
While the announcement of its digital-only future didn’t come as a surprise to many – it was inevitable and others will undoubtedly follow – it remains a sorry and uncomfortable state of affairs. Not just for the loss of a truly great newspaper or for the talented journalists who lost their jobs, but for what it represents about the future of journalism.
I’ve always had a deep affection for The Independent. Starting out as a journalist, it was the travel section I most wanted to write for and the first to take a chance on me. I still remember receiving that email from the then travel editor commissioning me to go to Canada to climb a frozen waterfall and spend the night in the ice hotel. It was an absolute dream come true and I still have a framed copy of the article hanging above my desk as a little reminder of how hard work and perseverance pays off.
It's a sorry state of affairs...
Eight years and countless features later, I’m immensely proud to have become a regular contributor to The Independent and felt honoured to have a piece grace the historic pages of the final Sunday edition.
I will, of course, continue writing for it in its new guise – but things will never be the same again. The thrill of rushing to the newsagent to pick up a copy and thumbing through the pages to see my words beautifully laid out just cannot be matched by clicking on a link or swiping a finger across an iPad.
There are numerous other titles still in print (for now) that I write for, so I’ll get my inky byline kicks from them – but the Indy’s closure raises fundamental questions.
The announcement was met with an outpouring of grief from people who spoke with soft sorrow about what a pioneering paper it was, and how sad it is that it will never again grace the newsstands. But how many of them actually went out and ever bought a copy? I include myself in that.
And while there will always be a market for words, I sometimes can’t help but wonder whether people still value them. Surely good words are worth paying for? Nobody thinks twice about parting with £3 for a coffee or a birthday card. But less than half of that for a newspaper? Not a chance.
Surely good words are worth paying for?
With circulations in freefall and people increasingly turning to free online content, the effects are being felt in more ways than one. My heart sinks when I hear that rates have been slashed (again) or every time I’m approached by an editor to contribute for no financial remuneration whatsoever. It usually goes something like this: ‘We don’t have any budget I’m afraid, but it’ll be great for your profile,’ writes the editor. ‘Many thanks for your concern about my profile,’ I reply, ‘but I think I’ll pass.’
There’s no question that traditional media is in a state of transition and has been for some years. The internet and arrival of social media has seen to that. The way in which people consume news and words has changed almost beyond recognition. More pictures and fewer words seems to be the order of the day in this age of Mail Online ‘journalism’.
I wonder whether appetite and attention spans for long, evocative and carefully crafted features - the kind I love both as a reader and a writer - just no longer exists. Magazines such as Wanderlust prove this isn’t strictly the case and it’s our collective duty to support and devour them as much as possible, for the world is a far richer place for having them in it. Main image: UK newspapers (Dreamstime)